Is Friendship an Unconditional Love?

Spiritual Friendship

Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking to the Harvard College Faith and Action student ministry (which, incidentally, makes the Boston Marathon bombings feel so much closer—I sat next to two runners on my flight there). Rarely have I encountered such a vibrant, passionate group of Christians, and I was honored by their sharp, creative responses and questions.

(One of the most moving parts of my visit was hearing a student give a testimony about being gay and Christian and wrestling with what that means for his future—celibacy? marriage? community? Afterward, it was hard to avoid tears as student after student came up and embraced him. I thought of Brandon Ambrosino’s story and how these kind of loving expressions often fly under the radar in our public debates about sex and marriage but are no less sustaining for going unremarked.)

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The Less Than Glamorous Side of Catholic Converts

In 2014, The Pew Religious Landscape Survey, a survey of the United States, found that only 2% of Americans born evangelical, or protestant, convert to Catholicism. From that number, it’s safe to say American converts are scarce in ratio to cradle Catholics. Converts are unique to the Church. It’s often asserted that converts make the best Catholics because they are knowledgeable about their faith, chose it for themselves, and are deeply passionate for it. A famous convert that often comes to people’s minds is Scott Hahn, professor at Franciscan University, Catholic writer, and speaker. As a Catholic Convert myself, even though we’re seen as special and unique in the life of Church, there are still struggles that arise with our conversion from a protestant to Catholic, and much of these struggles are not something we talk about. Today, in this blog post, I want to give you a look at what goes on behind the intellectual mind that converts to Catholic faith. I want to show you the less glamorous side of being a Catholic convert.

To begin, per my experience as a convert, being unadulterated Catholic is not as easy as going through RCIA and accepting all the dogmas of the Catholic faith. I am constantly having to throw out background knowledge that I attained through the cultural milieu with my protestant peers, the knowledge I gained from famous speakers like Francis Chan, and Church learning functions. Basically, one has to hunt and locate even simple ideas that are not aligned with the Catholic faith. It’s a process of conversion that is likely to take years. Most of the time, without guidance from my Godparents, I do not recognize small concepts I have that are fundamentalist, or Baptist in nature. For example, I accepted the idea, through my own independent learning as protestant, that if a dating relationship led to you to sin then it was not a relationship that was ordained by God to happen. You were, in fact, in the relationship of your own will and not God’s will, because God’s will would not lead to sin. This idea is not Catholic, and is not accepted by Catholics, it flies in the face of logic and reality. The reality is, God can bring two people together, but just like with everything there is temptation. The aspect of temptation itself was lacking in the “Godly dating” understanding I learned as a protestant. Temptation is a part of life and it’s too simplistic to state that God did not bring a couple together just because there is temptation, or because they mistakenly fell into temptation. Now keep in mind this is only once simple concept that I have shown you as an example for what I am asserting. Now, these ideas, that are not found in the truth of Catholicism, are hard to locate, and can only be done bit by bit. (Unless you find a Catholic book that starts from the very basic of ideas and works its way up to build to the entirety of the true Catholic intellectual mind. However, that is a resource I have not been able to find yet.)  This is likely the first you’re hearing of this phenomenon within Catholic converts, and the trouble doesn’t stop there either.

Besides having no clue about cultural aspects and celebrations of Catholicism, like the May crowning of Mary, converts grapple with the simple logic that was once a part of their faith life as a protestant. Being that I pursued the study of theology in college, as an evangelical we had this saying “God will provide,” in regards to the uncertain future of graduating college with theology degree. The phrase meant that God would provide you with a ministry right out of college. This is also a bit of knowledge that I had to learn was not a statement of truth. Here I am searching for jobs, a year after my college graduation date, and I’m contemplating giving up on my dreams of working in a career field that involves Jesus and christianity. Life is not simple. In the examples, I have provided for you thus far of the struggles of the convert, one can see that the statements are unrealistic. The statements lack the messy dimension of life. They are black and white statements, and life is not totally colored in black and white. Life is messy, and things of faith are not as simple as fundamentalists make them out to be. This bring me to point of this paragraph, The simplicity, the black and white perspective, are things the convert has to unlearn. This likely happens naturally as one matures with age, but being that I’m only 23 years old, I’ve had to focus on this aspect tremendously. The black and white glasses that are typically found in fundamentalism leaves no room for mercy. It’s very hard to understand mercy when one wears spectacles with lenses that are only black and white. This thinking, at its core, lacks an understanding of other people, and understanding is the first step, in my experience, to the virtue of mercy. This particular problem leads into the next struggle that I have only begun to understand.

In relation to what I mentioned above, there is a significant problem that can form within the convert. I, from being a convert, have slight scruples. I suggest googling “Catholic scruples,” if you don’t know what I am referring to as I don’t have the time to explain the idea. Basically, with scruples, and some bad experiences in helping in Catholic education, I have found that with the realization of numerous minor things I once believed false, you can, and I have, come to this sense of questioning if you even know God at all. This is where I am at the moment. Not all of my protestant background knowledge of God can transition over to the truth found in Catholicism. This final point I bring up is truly the spear head of this blog post. Basically, you can lose this sense of who God is. You aren’t quite sure which depictions of Jesus growing up with are accurate. Let me ask you this, if you picture Jesus improperly is it really Jesus you are following? It’s surely possible to make a Jesus in your mind that is not actually Jesus. This is the side I want my readers to think about. The disruption that can be created within the convert of how they picture God. It may not have been a struggle for some, like Scott Hahn, but it is a tangible struggle nonetheless. It is a struggle that I am facing now. This loss of clarity is most troublesome, and is an obstacle in my relationship with God. This problem is truly the pinnacle of hardship in being a convert to Catholic faith.

If you are a convert like my myself, you are not the only one facing these challenges. I am right here with you. You’re not alone. Being a convert is not all fun and games like many people think it is. To be frank, in some ways I envy cradle Catholics because they can trust the knowledge they have of God, and have an image of God that is not influenced by evangelical ideas. They picture God as a what a Catholic is supposed to. This picture they have of God, it is something I have to try recreate, and even then it may not be exactly perfect. Well, to conclude this blog post, this is just only a brief look at the secret struggles that occur within convert Catholics.

If any Catholics have book recommendations, containing citations and documentation, on the character of Jesus, or God, I would appreciate it if you commented below with the title and Author. It would be extremely helpful for me, and for other like me! thank you so much, and thankyou for reading this ramble of mine.

Afternote by Author:

If you say that my image of God should not have changed than you don’t see how correct teaching helps correct right relationship, just how correct information creations good relationships with others. If you thought Susie was always mad and yelling at her friends, would that not make you less likely to have a friendship with her? The same is true with God, but in more subtle matters than the obvious deterrent in the example with Susie. Correct teaching, understanding, and image of God are important to the faith life, and to one’s relationship with God.

The Mess Of “13 Reasons Why”

Yes, I have finally decided to write a proper blog post about this topic. If you know me personally, then you know that I disapprove of this series and book. If you have been under a rock for the past month or so, 13 Reasons Why is a book written by Jay Asher, in 2007, was recently made into a Netflix TV Show. Selena Gomez, Co-producer of the series, and the production team wanted the series to bring light to suicide and make people more aware. The book was supposed to have a similar premise. As someone diagnosed with depression, I wanted to provide my criticisms on the series and how they fell short of REALLY talking about suicide.

First off, I want to give a disclaimer, I have not watched the series as it contains triggering material and I want to remain being bright sunshiny me. That is my disclaimer about little things that I might get wrong about the series. However, I did read the book in high school and was puzzled by how people found the book to be amazing. If the book had not been given to me as a present from a friend, I would’ve likely given it away because it’s not something I would read again, especially since, today, I have a better understanding of mental illness and Suicide.

The basic premise of the book and series is “be kind to people to people, so they don’t go home a commit suicide.” Now, the idea of being kind and good to others is all well in good. However, there is a problem when a TV series that is supposed to be about suicide never mentions mental illness at all. It’s not in the dialogue, referred to by the narrator, and I am also unable to find out if the 29-minute documentary after the last episode even discusses it. (I will not watch documentary as it is likely to have clips from the series in it.) There is an immense problem when suicide is mentioned without any word about mental illness. Suicide is not something that just happens; suicide is caused by mental illness. “The great majority of people who experience a mental illness do not die by suicide.  However, of those who die from suicide, more than 90 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder.”[1] The fact that this series tries to state its purpose is to talk about and inform about suicide, yet does not mention mental illness spreads the same misconceptions and ideas. In fact, I contend, the series should have advertised itself for the awareness about bullying, sexual harassment, and rape.

I understand that the series is geared toward neurotypicals, people who do not have neurotransmitter problems and other mental problems, as shown by the content they put into the series. Even with the triggering material, my biggest problem with the series is that there is no mention of mental illness whatsoever.  Even if one states Hannah is depicted as having depression, since it does not mention mental illness, it only fuels the current milieu of society about depression. At least in American culture, we have this misconception about depression and typically use the word very lightly. We generally don’t seem ever to take it seriously. We make jokes, have ideas like depression is just something that will fade over time, or even consider it as going through a hard time. However, depression is a mental illness, and that is hardly ever discussed in the media. In fact, I didn’t know till college that depression was a mental illness; before, I just thought depression was a life situational thing that happened. Studies have shown, depression does not fade but only gets worse as it goes untreated. The series perpetuates the misnomers about depression because it fails to explicitly talk about it as a mental illness, even if one says it showed depression in Hannah. The fact that it fails in talking about depression as a mental illness means that overall it failed in its aim of helping people that feel there is no hope. It fails to help those thinking of suicide. There is so much more that needs to be done than just calling a suicide hotline. When you say “get help,” the audience has to understand that it includes counseling every week, and it’s not a just passing moment of hopelessness. The hopelessness will come back again and again unless you get treatment for it. It’s not simple like the statement “a permanent solution for a temporary problem” makes it out to be.

Also, the series, if one wants to say it depicts Hannah having a mental illness, portrays it inauthentically. It provides entertainment that gives the idea that being friends with Hannah would have saved her life. This is not reality, even if Hannah had friends she would have still felt this way since she is “suppose to have a mental illness.” Mental illness is more complex than having friends, trauma, and people being nice to you. Bullying can be a factor in suicide, but it is not a direct cause of suicide. It has a correlation, but not causation.  The Centers for Disease Control states “We don’t know if bullying directly causes suicide-related behavior. We know that most youth who are involved in bullying do NOT engage in suicide-related behavior. It is correct to say that involvement in bullying, along with other risk factors, increases the chance that a young person will engage in suicide related behaviors.”[2]  In some way, bullying can be related, or maybe trigger, depression, but suicide is never the rational and normal response to bullying. It is a disordered reaction. Bullying should not always be related to suicide as the mainstream media often depicts it.

Pulling all these things together, including the rape scene, paints the common misconception that something bad has to happen to you for you to have thoughts of suicide. That can’t be is further from the truth, if mental illness were addressed and discussed then this idea would not be prevalent in the series. The fact is, you can have a good life and still feel terrible. Depression and other mental illnesses are illnesses and have a genetic and biological component. It is not all caused by environmental or situational events. Mental illness is linked to a combination of factors as to why they develop, and how people get them. The series portrays a situation that I do not believe is very common and reinforces the idea to have suicidal ideation you must be bullied, be raped, or have another trauma. This misinforms the audience of the show and does not help them if they ever encounter someone with those thoughts and feelings. It will leave people confused, and likely make them think the person is faking it because the person has a “good life.” The series does nothing to tackle stigma or open a discussion in providing educational material about suicide.

Anther problematic misconception that does not help with suicide, the series gives the idea that romantic love can save you. Clay, from what I understand, is left feeling like if he had only just loved Hannah, and was not afraid to do so, she might still be alive. He believes that he could have saved her from her mental illness. To show proof of this, here is some of the dialogue:

Clay: “I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.”

Mr. Porter: “We can’t love someone back to life.”

Clay: “You can try.”

Romantic love will not save you from your trauma and mental illness. It will not make those things go away. You have to decide to go to counseling and to tackle these problems head on. Only you can save yourself. Someone else can’t save you, they can help you save yourself, but they will not be your knight in shining armor to rescue you Like some damsel in distress. You have to be your own hero, have a support group of friends, and pray to your Higher Power for assistance. You need to fight tooth and nail to stay alive. To be more clear, from my Tumblr I better state this as, “In real life, a boy cannot, and will not, be what saves you from your mental illness and brokenness. You have to work at getting better. Getting better by the use counseling, learning to identify problematic behaviors picked from your parents, etc., and fight tooth and nail to stay alive. I speak from experience. Someone, you are attracted to, will not come along and save you, like a damsel in distress. Only you can do that, and your Higher Power, if you believe in one.”

I can go on and on about this series and the problems with it; however, the length of such would likely qualify as an end of term college paper, and I don’t want to write one of those on a series I hate. Thus, in conclusion, 13 Reasons Why perpetuates the same old misconceptions about suicide and if anything should be advertised as an anti-bullying series. (though, most bullies, I don’t think, realize they are bullies. So, who knows if the series will help with that or not.) It romanticizes the content about suicide, does not talk about mental illness, and paints the same pictures that are constantly in the media. It does not shed true light on the topic of suicide. The series is just an all around misrepresentation and an inauthentic portrayal of such matters. The producers and the series production team had good intentions, but the execution is lacking. Though, to be fair, the book itself has the same problems in regards to mental illness as the series. In my opinion, the 13 Reasons Why team should have chosen different source material for their goal as the book itself was very flawed too.


[1] University of Washington: School of Social Work. Web link: http://depts.washington.edu/mhreport/facts_suicide.php

[2] Page 3 https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/bullying-suicide-translation-final-a.pdf

Grace: The Electric Toy Sports Car

Under the hot sun this morning, I was vacuuming out my car. Yesterday, my grandma and I had discovered that Hermine had left the inside of my car nice and wet. It smelled like a swamp. You almost didn’t want to breathe. And that is pretty accurate description considering the water came from the marsh when my street flooded. My car during the flood had managed to become a poor excuse for a Transformer and became a little golden submarine. Gilda, my car, had to be driven to higher ground before the water got any higher, and thus become a submarine to make it to higher ground.

As I was vacuuming up the muddy water from beneath the seats and footboards, an old lady and her grandson were walking up my street. The little grandson, maybe 3 or 4, was chugging along in an electric toy yellow sports car. The grandson had been instructed to follow behind grandma. At that moment, I had an epiphany about grace.

I  pictured sweet and strong Jesus walking in a path in front and young children struggling to keep up and not be left behind. Their little legs were scrambling to try and close the distance between Jesus and them. They just couldn’t keep up no matter how fast they moved their little feet, and the distance grew and grew.

However, Jesus had given us grace to help us follow him. This grace I pictured as the electric toy car the little kid was riding in this morning. The car gave us a faster and better means at following Jesus. We could keep up and not grow so tired. The car, or grace, was a needed gift from God to help us in our disadvantage. There was no way the small gait of a child could keep up with Jesus and his grown up size strides. So, God gave us an electric toy car to chug along in behind Jesus. We wouldn’t lose Jesus as along as we followed behind him. Of course, there was still the option to turn right or left or to crash and break the car. It was the children’s choice to decide if they wanted to follow Jesus, but we would not lose sight of him in the distance from the ever widening gap between his walking strides and the walking strides of the children.

We all have access to the rideable electric toy car called grace. Without this, there would be no way to heaven. We cannot earn heaven, and so God gave us the grace to help us attain it. Though, to keep up with Jesus, and then get to heaven, one has to cooperate and follow directions. Grace is amazing, but one has to work with God, and with grace. There is a cooperation between man and God in the incredible gift called grace.

Finding Myself Again

My goal, recently, was to try and stay off Facebook, texting, and etc. Originally, it was an attempt to protect myself and to give myself some more time to do things. After the first day I realized I needed it. I needed it to find myself again.

Somewhere I had lost myself amongst all of the expectations of others. After that one day things felt so good. I came to see I needed to make my own judgements and not rely on other people. My opinions on theological things needed to be my own. I needed to research and form my own conclusions. I also needed to reconnect with things I liked doing and discover new things about myself. I hadn’t played video games in a while. And I’m sure other things got neglected that I was unaware of.

My plan in theory aimed to limit my contact with others to where it was just work and necessary things. However, I have also come to realize that finding myself also includes being able to share ideas and things I learned with people who can appreciate it. A part of finding myself is realizing the need to talk to someone when you are excited about something and know that they can connect with it, or at least try.

I don’t think I’m done with my little break from social media and etc, but I have come to find something surprising. I have found that without the influences of others and forming my own judgements I think I lean to more traditional Catholic stance. In this break, I have allowed myself to explore areas that I may not have thought of if I was not set on finding myself outside of the other people around me.

Finding myself in this exercise is like turning off all the noise and just letting yourself be. Letting yourself not be enmeshed in others and just be inside yourself. Outside of people’s expectations, problems, and emotions. Be in your own skin and regain your sense of self. 

I think everyone should give it a try. But, remember part of finding yourself is also sharing your joy that you can’t help but tell someone about!

The Tragedy of Contemporary Christian Lingo

My focus these past few weeks have been about issues that I see within the Catholic Church and in all churches. These issues, I believe, are a relatively recent phenomenon that has resulted because of the last 300 or 200 years of Christian “events,” for a lack of a better word, in American society. I plan on writing a book when I feel like my investigation is complete and I’m able to offer practical solutions to ministers.

I’m writing this at the present moment because I do not feel I can keep quiet about this issue on language. In the contemporary Christian culture the language used has emotionalism and this lack of awareness about it. To clarify, examples of these statements include, “I feel led to go to (X place),” “God laid it on my heart to tell you (X thing),” “I felt in my heart I should do (X thing),” and etc. I do not feel I should have to list all the common phrases used by, at least young, Christians today. If you are involved in ministry or a church you should know exactly what I am referring to.

This language is very flawed. It shows a desperate need for a true interior life and the awareness of something called “discernment.” It lacks the idea of divine providence acting in circumstances without your “feelings” or “emotions.” It focuses so much on how someone feels at that moment which is very likely to be a temporary feeling and not from God. What one is doing when using these phrases is applying authority that they are not certain of, or they are blissfully ignorant in understanding that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” This jargon also lacks humility and tries to assert something that may not be true. What is the better course of action is just to acknowledge that you desire to do something. This is more truthful. Only time and much discernment can lead to the understanding if such a feeling is not just originating yourself.

In Catholicism, this jargon, I believe, is a consequence of Protestant influences and is born out of the faulty movement in Protestantism that focuses on feelings and emotions. This emphasis is because they lack something solid that the Catholic church has, so they put authority on how they “feel” as they think it is the “Holy Spirit” and to assert that they truly have the Holy Spirit.  The Church is having such views leaked into it via popular Protestant singers, at least, to the youth who do not understand the complexities of Christian spiritual life and living for Christ. Additionally, there MAY be a chance Catholics are using the same techniques as a way to ensure that people do not leave the Church. If this is the case, then what we have is a church that is having Protestant social ideas leaking into the Church and creating a mixture of spiritual understanding. This mixture is very likely not stable as I consider most entertainment and emotionalism tactics to be missing the key point of Jesus. It creates a spiritual idea where only the loud and boisterous “passion” or “love” is truly someone following Christ. The mature passion and love of Christ are one that is quiet and reverent.

To clarify what I mean by mature, C. S. Lewis states:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Most experiences where God teaches you or have you do something will not be a drama of emotion. What I see as the issue that is creating problems is the emotionalism which is a result of consumerism in American society. People want something that is not really “Catholic.” Baptism can be accompanied with emotions or it may not be, but just because there are no emotions does not change the beauty of what happens at baptism. There is a stable reality that can be known and is not limited to subjective feelings that tend to be very unreliable.

Now before I let my musings sink in, I want to remind you that this information is a work in progress. It is a tentative theory for things that I see which are problematic in everyday life as someone heavily involved in Catholicism and Christianity. Take my information and think about it. Chew on it. Reflect on it and come to your own conclusion about if the Christian jargon is uneducated and harmful. What I said is not set in stone, but only a tentative perspective.

Sites that helped me put this into words: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/02/828/

http://www.ewtn.com/v/experts/showmessage.asp?number=333051

https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2014/02/06/faith-and-emotion/

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2007/07/08/the-spirit-the-modern-world-pentecostalism-and-orthodoxy/

 

The Catholic School Kid

Since August, I have started work at a Catholic School. I am, currently, a substitute teacher and an extended care assistant. My job at the school and my involvement in children’s lives are a very enlightening experience. In many ways, I expected Catholic School to be different from my own experience of growing up in public school. In a certain way, I was right, but some of the ways it is different are not a good thing.

The school system is fine. What is different is the environment the kids grow up in. I expected prim and proper families as a private school is not cheap. However, a lot of the parents I meet are single moms. One of the sweetest kids I have met so far, his father is in jail. It seems that there isn’t much of a stable nuclear family anymore. Kids have to remember which parent they have to go home with for the weekend. A group of sisters that I interact with a lot has five other step-siblings who are also from divorced parents. That is eight children that one has to keep track of who goes where. Going into this job, considering it is a private school, much of what I hear about the condition of the family unit is surprising.

As a millennial with constant articles and elders complaining about my generation, I can’t imagine what they will say about these elementary kids. The only people we can blame for how these children turn out is ourselves. In public school, it seemed like everyone I knew still had a stable family unit and their parents were not divorced. It was the same in college. Thus, it was very surprising to me see that most kids, I get to interact with at least, do have a “broken” family.  In addition, we, millennials, are complained about like it is a new accessory to wear to make you look sophisticated. Therefore, if these kids have more family trouble than us “entitled millennials” then I do not know what the older generation will cook up about these kids. As a facility member of the school, I have come to realize that the school offers some children an assured stability. No matter who they go home with, and which bedroom they sleep in, the school will always be a constant place for them to go when home is traveling between two locations.

God has shown me that despite the conditions these kids live with they are beautifully resilient. There is a giant light for them in their life through the school and the Catholic faith. Today, the group of sisters I previously mentioned were re-enacting mass. A dictionary was used as a pretend Bible for the readings and prayer book. During their fun, they were trying to teach me how to be an altar server as they had gone through training to be altar servers. It was a very sweet moment for me to witness, granted the eldest and the youngest started fighting over who would be the priest. Eventually, the middle sister joined in too over the quarrel of the priesthood. I made sure to remind them in real life only men can be priests, but there is a study going on to see if the Church can ordain deaconesses. As a Protestant, I have never seen kids playing a church service for fun. The kids enjoy Mass and the traditions that come with it. Today, this little moment showed me that even though life is confusing for the kids, there is a light in the darkness for them.

God’s love for these young children is truly boundless. Even with all the sin in the world, He somehow reaches the hearts of these kids in such a unique way. And He uses the Catholic faith to light up these little hearts for Him. I hope He continues to show me what the fullness of truth and tradition can efficiently accomplish.

The Censorship of Christian History

There is nothing quite like reading documents written by the early Church Fathers. Early meaning the span of 100 to 400 years Anno Domini, or AD, and Church Fathers meaning the successors of the twelve apostles. These documents capture explicitly the thoughts and doctrines within that time period. The evidence of christian history and historical doctrine can be found outside the bible in sermons, books, treatise, and etc. They are truly and interesting and captivating read!

I was not exposed to early Christian writing outside the bible till I decided to become catholic and attended a Catholic Universality. Today, I see that there is a great crime going on in Christianity. This crime is where history is censored and done away with. The bible alone is seen as what should be used for understanding of Christianity. More worrisome is how Christians deny the legitimacy of proven Christian history and let the information go in one ear and out the other. They treat history like it tends to do with science. They treat it as bogus and made up. They question the validity of early Christian writings and go against reason and logic. It is almost as if they do not appreciate sound and researched information. Historical facts matter nothing to them if it is not indicated in the bible, even if it is information about first century Christianity.

In college, I wrote a paper on Jesus descending into Hell as stated by the Apostles’ Creed. The way I tried to work this paper was with the use of scripture. I did not want to use history to prove this statement as I knew history would do nothing to improve my argument if I used it later as a means to inform people about the catholic faith.  Non-Catholics, or churches that do not focus on real seven sacraments, only want evidence provided by verses and passages in scripture. This leaves out another half of the story. In my upbringings as a protestant, we discussed the founders of our church, John Wesley for example, and the characters in the bible. Other than that no other prominent figure of Christian history ever seemed to be discussed. There was no mention of Athanasius or the Councils that clarified the doctrine of the Trinity. There is a tendency among people to reject any historical fact that goes against there own doctrinal understanding of Christianity. For me it is a times frustrating, it limits the conversation to little phrases like “let go and let God” along with other short, ambiguous, and misinterpret-able sayings.

The censorship that is involved in this phenomenon is the lack of information about early church writing. Never had someone mentioned early Christian writing until I was teaching myself the ways of being a Catholic. The fact that this fails to get mentioned even in the pulpit is very concerning. Additionally, I also find it concerning how one is expected to have understanding of God’s word when they lack a good understanding of Jewish history and culture. How can the old testament be understood, along with cultural aspects in the New Testament, without educating people about Judaism? It is almost as if we are told to read the Constitution without ever knowing about the American Revolution, the Revolutionary war, and the articles of Confederation. Reading the Constitution without background information leaves out the context and key information.Today, even with the historical understanding of the Constitution there are still many interpretations on the document. This is, of course, not a prefect example.The question remains though, when did history become so unimportant that we think that we can understand ancient documents without context?

My questioning of this censorship is rhetorical. Cardinal Newman said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Part of this phenomenon pertains to the existence of the Eucharist found in early church writing. The Eucharist is the most intimate interaction with Jesus. It is where the bread and wine go through transubstantiation where they become the body and blood of Jesus. It is one of my favorite sacraments, followed by confession. The body and blood of Jesus look like and taste like bread and wine, but God has changed them to have the substance of Jesus. The fact this is found in explicit detail outside the bible in historical writings is partly why Christian History is censored along with the evidence of the other Sacraments.

In the turn of the 20th century mostly everyone was literate, it is tragic that history is disregarded even though, today, we have higher literacy rates than ever, according to Western history. How can a world where mostly everyone can read and have access to information neglect parts of history just because they do not like what early church documents explicitly say? To add irony, most churches accept the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity also can not be found explicitly in the bible, but was a formulation made in the early church. In any case, many people I encounter do not regard history about Christianity to be valid information and it is truly very tragic. They think the history you spout is lies. The only way to really talk to most protestants is to use scripture alone.

Insecurity: what do you do and what if no one believes in you?

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At baptism, in the Catholic faith, a candle is lit to signify us becoming a Christian. This fire is also symbolic of being a light to others as well as the light in our hearts. Additionally, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush.

It’s taken me a while, but currently my health has been doing well. I have been going to the gym often, I have received the maximum dosage of medication I have been prescribed, I eat very little sugar nowadays, and vegetables and fruit are my go to food. Things are not as bad as they were, at leastfrom my last update. 

This blog post was sort of inspired by My God sister, Tiffany, and her post about her reflections while on her mission trip in Haiti. You can read the post here:  https://tiffanyfettigblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/diggin-up-dem-fears/

I never considered Tiffany to have similar insecurities such as mine. The fear that you may be ill suited for what you desire to do. Thus, I myself wanted to talk about this as my mood has been stable for quite a few days. Though, today it seems shaky, but I chalk that up to the nightmares I had last night and this morning. I think we’ll always have these little fears in us about our abilities and aptitude. Specifically, I do not think magically things will get better in these insecurities. Sainthood is a process after all. Give your insecurities to Jesus and through concrete experiential means He will heal them and bestow strength upon you.

Insecurities are often seen as something that needs to be gone in order to lead ministry or people. This is not so, especially in the biblical sense. I want you to wipe that from your head and fight that idea tooth and nail whenever it pops up in your head. In truth, when serving the Lord there will be times you will mess up and perhaps not be what someone needed, but the beauty is that someone’s salvation is not limited by your actions. God endlessly pursues us until our last breath. Therefore, there should never be despair upon your failure because someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. Additionally, I want to touch on insecurities that spawn from events like a failure and insecurities in general. Everyone has them, but they may be different from yours. This is a fact, and only by the sanctifying grace of God can we overcome these fears. This, like I said before, is a process in communion with Jesus.

To better clarify my point, having insecurities, I believe, does not in any way bar you from ministry. When Paul writes in 2nd Timothy, much of what is written, from my perspective, is reassurance to Timothy. Timothy is struggling and needs guidance from Paul. However, the thing I want to focus on most is the story of Moses. Moses is so insecure about his talking abilities, he has some sort of impediment, that he begs God to choose someone else. Long story short, God relents and has patience with Moses, and says that Aaron, Moses brother, will be Moses’ mouth piece. For specifics, Exodus 7:1-2 states, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.’” Despite Moses’ insecurity about his speech and his failure to be obedient to God, Moses was still considered a great prophet and even gave the Jewish people the law. Insecurities are bothersome, but they do not disqualify you from the calling on one’s life. God will use you despite them and transform you along the way into the person that he calls you to be.

In the midst of my illness taking over the following months after my medication stopped working in October, like expected, I lost all confidence and self-love for myself. Insecurities and fears chipped away at myself. Such is the nature of my illness. It eats and corrodes your sense of self. It basically eats you from the inside out until you can’t take it anymore and believe that people would be better off without you. Then it kills you by your own hand because it has tortured you into submission of accepting such lies. For me, I very much consider it to be akin to being a captured enemy soldier and being tortured for information until you snap. It is my hope that my readers never have to experience something so awful happening inside their own body. What I want you to take away from this is that I know what it is like to struggle with insecurities, and I want you to know that God can still use you. I believe, and the key point here is “I,” that God has called me to serve Him in some way, especially since it seems my happiness is linked to theology.

Here are little questions I want to ask you: what do you do when you realize no one really believes in you? Do you give up? Do you ignore people? Do you resign yourself to the doubt of perhaps not being suited for your dream? The truth is it doesn’t really matter if people believe in you or not.

One of the hardest parts about converting to Catholicism was that everyone who believed in me lost faith in me. My youth pastor and church friends lost faith in me. They thought I was making a big mistake and was not following the bible. When I encountered a catholic community,  I can’t say I felt most Catholics believe in me. And this was compounded when my medication for my Major Depressive Disorder stopped working in October, and on top of that, graduation was quickly approaching. I remember reaching out to people I looked up to for hope that I was called to ministry. In return, I felt like I was met with aversion tactics. It hurt a little and it wasn’t very hopeful, but the thing is, now, I don’t care if no one believes in me because I have to do what will make me happy. If working for the Lord makes me happy than who is someone to cast judgement. I have always understood that I am not the most “popular” Christian, but I think God knows that I am the way I am because I do not need it. I am simply hard-headed, tenacious, theological, and kindhearted Ashley. It doesn’t matter if I am not “popular,” “outgoing,” or if I don’t have “rose-colored glasses.” God has and will give me the things that I need, and He knows I don’t need those things.

Even though today I feel the same thing about people not really believing in me, it doesn’t really matter. My heart clings to the story of Paul and how no one wanted to believe he was called by Jesus at first. No one believed him. Not to mention, he spent much time alone with God and no other disciples after Jesus graced him with his presence. Galatians 1:15 -17 states: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” In fact, before he even met with the apostles he took ministry on by himself in Damascus. The apostles did not believe in him at first either thinking it was a plot to kill them. What sustained Paul was his faith in Jesus and believing he was meant to do this, even if no one else believed in him.

In conclusion, I want you to fight this idea that you need others to believe in you to pursue ministry and the idea that people in ministry should not have insecurities. Especially, if you bear the weight of thinking you are the chance to bring someone to Christ. The truth is, no matter what, someone’s salvation is not dependent on you. God relentless pursues people. Additionally, Insecurities will not magically disappear once you give them to Jesus. You will attain peace through prayer once you give them up, but Jesus does not use magic. He uses Sanctifying Grace to make us into the saints He has called us to be. Additionally, remember, despite Moses and his protests to God involving his insecurity, God used Moses in a great way. Despite being so insecure at the start of his ministry, Moses become a central figure in Judaism. God used him, and He can use you, insecurities and all.

Is God to Blame?

The sun was slowly climbing out of bed to give light to the world. The colors of the Sun’s blanket as she slowly lumbered out bed painted the sky in brilliant hues of yellows, pinks, and reds. At the same time, a man climbed out of bed at the sound of his alarm and got ready to start his day. Once dressed, he proceeded to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. In the medicine cabinet, there was an organizer with a little compartment for each day. In the allotted compartments was medication, vitamins, and supplements all organized for each day for the week. Every day the man had to take pills of medication, vitamins, and supplements for a chronic health problem. To many, the idea of swallowing pills as if it is second nature is something to be envied because they themselves struggle with this ability. The irony is to the man they are lucky to not have needed to learn such a skill. Unlike him, God had planned for them to live a relatively healthy life.

This story is not uncommon. In fact, I myself struggle with my own health. In October, my medication for my illness had stopped working. From what I understand, this is a common problem. It is simply that the body has grown use to the medication, and thus, it has become ineffective. Since then, I was thrown back into a struggle that I hoped I had left behind for good. To this day, doctors and other professionals are still trying to find another medication that will help alleviate the worst of my symptoms. It’s a process of trial and error as not every medication will work the same for each person.

In the midst of the time since then, I was once again plagued with the internal struggle of wondering why God would give and plan my life to have this illness. This was a recurring thought as I struggled through each day at college. It was compounded by the carefree attitudes of my fellow devout catholic peers. Deep in my heart, I wished to be just like them and not know the heavy burden that laid upon my shoulders. Even today, such a desire exists, I am definitely not yet a saint. I graduated this spring with a bachelors in Theology. Thus, my peers and I went our separate ways, and some, like me, started a new chapter in life. Today, I see my peers going on mission trips, summer camps, and other ministry and theological orientated tasks, but instead of feeling great joy and pride in them, I find that I am frustrated because I could be doing those exact same things. I could be but instead I have to attend to my health. Such adventures are on hold until I am healthy again. This sadness and envy at my season in life is not holy, and I say these things to be truthful with my readers and I feel there is an advantage to my message by sharing it.

The thing I want you take away from this, and it took me longer than it should have to discern it, is we tend to think illnesses, and other misfortunes to be what God planned for us and this is an error. This was something I struggled with because of my own suffering, like I showed in the previous paragraphs. Usually, such a thing as suffering would not bother me, but the difference here is the sheer amount of suffering that caused me to really question how God could have planned this struggle for my life. I would tell myself that this will make me a better person, but at the end of the day it was not much of comfort. The truth is God did not originally plan for this to happen to me. God did not plan for me to suffer from poor health. What created this was the first sin by Adam and Eve. It took me too long to come to this conclusion, and I probably should be embarrassed. 

What the first sin by Adam and Eve destroyed was the harmony that God had created. The harmony within the body controlled by the soul’s spiritual faculties was broken. Spiritual faculties did not control it anymore. Thus emotions, mind, and fleshly urges were in disarray and were not controlled by Spiritual faculties anymore. It is from the fall of Adam and Eve that misfortunes and suffering are in life. It is not correct to think that God is to blame for one being sick. Original sin is to blame and God did not create original sin. Original sin and the consequences that arose were created by man, namely Adam and Eve. If you read Gensis, you can see that disorder is let loose into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. I do not feel I am doing it justice, but the harmony and peace that God had created was destroyed by the first sin. This subsequently is why we now sin, and why we need abundant grace from God to attain salvation. What original sin created was a wound “in the natural powers proper to,” according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church 405, human nature. God did not create disease, illness, misfortune, birth defects, cancer, or anything else. The world is fallen and broken because of sin. We suffer because of the effects of original sin. In the case that I am not doing this justice, I recommend you read the Catechism. It can be found online for free. 

The sense that this had not come from God has put peace in my heart. Suffering is beneficial, and, just like with Job, God does allow us to suffer, however this suffering is created by the fall of man. This is the truth of the matter. It was not correct for me to struggle with God over this issue as He did not create suffering. If it was not this suffering than it would be something else. 

This is what I want you to take away from this post,  God is not to blame for our suffering, but He is a place we can run to for security. It’s tragic that we assign, almost on instinct, blame to God when misfortunes come our way. It is damaging to our relationship to God and eats away at our trust in Him. You can blame God for allowing you a certain misfortune, however he did not originally intend for this to happen to you. What made this happen to you was original sin and not God. I hope that what I have written here you take to heart and that it might also bring you peace.